Sarah Norris, Investment Director and co-portfolio manager of the Global Equity Impact Fund for Aberdeen Standard Investments recently sat down with Climate Finance Week 2020 chair Stephen Nolan for the second episode of our compelling podcast series ‘ESG Stories’.
Sarah manages the global equity impact fund at Aberdeen Standard Investments and works with ASI’s head of responsible investment on creating all the impact research, as well as the stock selection, with her co-manager Dominic Byrne.
Sarah and her team put together a portfolio of companies that deliver products and services that will have a positive impact – whether that is through social or environmental outcomes. She says: “The day to day role is really engaging with companies, it’s evaluating specific unmet needs.
“That’s how we focus our research – it’s not just looking for revenue exposure, but it’s identifying different unmet need in a country and seeing if companies really can address them through their products and services.”
You can listen to the ‘ESG Stories’ podcast HERE and subscribe and download it wherever you get your podcasts.
Aberdeen Standard Investments has more than £550 billion invested globally with £20 billion in sustainability driven products, including ethical investing and sustainable investing, with some thematic investing also.
In terms of the current actors on the ESG stage and what Stephen Nolan calls the ‘pushes and pulls’ of the market, Sarah describes the last six to 12 months in terms of the activism around ESG investing, and how it is integrated, as ‘phenomenal’.
And despite the Covid19 pandemic causing chaos in financial markets, it seems the position of ESG in decision making appears to be gathering pace, not weakening.
“We’ve seen a lot of demand from clients as well as regulation driving a broader agenda around social and environmental considerations with how companies are operating themselves. I think there is a greater recognition that companies really need to consider the beneficiaries and the stakeholders – not just the end users of their products, but also within their supply chains.
She adds: “Companies don’t just exist for shareholders anymore – they exist for all the different beneficiaries that they will touch and stakeholders’ lives, as well as the planet as a key stakeholder.”
Sarah discusses what she calls ‘the David Attenborough affect’ which means people have heightened awareness around what is happening with climate change, partly because of programmes made by famous broadcasters such as Attenborough.
She says: “It is much more tangible, and we’ve also seen a groundswell in terms of election results for green agendas and Green parties, even here in Ireland with the elections.”
All this change requires backing from asset managers, says Sarah. “I don’t think that you can actually achieve any climate agenda, any social agenda, without buy in from asset managers.
“We have trillions of dollars under management globally and when you think about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the amount that it’s going to cost to actually achieve them – $5 to $7 Trillion annually, asset managers as well as corporates have a role to play.”
Make sure to subscribe to ‘ESG Stories’ wherever you get your podcasts. It is available in Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and others.